Planet Home in The New York Times

  • February 26, 2011 3:03 pm

The New York Times just published an article on Jeffrey Hollender with many mentions of Planet Home. I’m biased but the book jacket sure looks gorgeous in those pages!

PracticallyGreen.com Announces New Editorial Director: Me

  • February 23, 2011 11:32 am

Green-living expert Alexandra Zissu joins online service dedicated to promoting healthy and green life changes; Zissu to manage environmental health and science content for PracticallyGreen.com

02.23.2011– Boston, MA Practically Green, an online service that helps busy people make healthy, practical, green-living decisions for themselves and their families, today announced the hiring of Alexandra Zissu as Editorial Director for the company.

In her role, Zissu will be responsible for editing all online environmental health and science content for Practically Green, notably the healthy green action platform. These healthy green actions, a core element of Practically Green’s personalized program, are comprehensive steps that users can take to live healthier and greener. Zissu will also oversee Practically Green’s product standards and screenings.

“As a trailblazer in the green and healthy living space, Alexandra Zissu brings a wealth of diverse experience and eco-living expertise to Practically Green,” said Practically Green Founder and CEO Susan Hunt Stevens. “We are excited to have her on board and look forward to working with her to provide real-world personalized advice to consumers worldwide.”

Zissu is a journalist and the renowned green-living author of The Complete Organic Pregnancy; The Conscious Kitchen, a Books for a Better Life Awards finalist; the forthcoming The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat; and the just-released Planet Home, a room-by-room guide to safe and environmentally-friendly living. As a “greenproofing” consultant for businesses and households, Zissu has been called upon to help companies go green on all levels, from basic environmentally-friendly tips for staff to company-wide sustainability initiatives. For home consultations, Zissu identifies areas of living space where simple changes can reduce and minimize exposure to potentially harmful substances.

“I am thrilled to join the Practically Green team of esteemed green-living experts,” said Zissu. “I am looking forward to working together to continue building a site that will inspire people all over the world to commit to making healthy, green changes in their everyday lives. I’ll still be plugging away at my own work within the environmental community — writing, speaking, consulting — and it feels great to join forces with like-minded, passionate people on our shared mission.”

Practically Green is an online service that provides consumers with the knowledge necessary to make green and healthy-living decisions in their everyday lives, while also making the process fun and easy to share with their friends and neighbors via their personal online social networks.

The service is driven by a unique diagnostic tool that provides users with their current “green living profile.” The web site then draws from its database of more than 400 healthy green actions to generate customized recommendations for each user. Suggested actions help people reduce energy consumption, save water, reduce exposure to household toxins, and preserve natural resources. Progress is tracked and users earn points as well as social recognition in the form of badges and medals. Actions and accomplishments can be shared with friends, using the power of social networks to drive real-life changes.

Zissu joins an established team of digital media veterans including CEO Stevens, who held senior digital and marketing roles with The New York Times Company, most recently as SVP/GM of Boston.com, one of the nation’s largest regional news sites. The executive team also includes Co-founder and Vice President of Product and Technology Jason Butler, who has held product leadership roles with Boston.com, Abuzz, and Amazon.com; and Director of Social Programming Sarah Finnie Robinson, a former launch programming director at iVillage.

Practically Green was launched in a private beta version in May 2010, and went into open beta in July 2010.

Practically Green can be found at www.practicallygreen.com, on Twitter at www.twitter/practicallygrn, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/practicallygreen.

Media Contacts:
Mary Zanor / Colleen White
Elevate Communications
617-861-3653 / 617-861-3679
mzanor@elevatecom.com> / cwhite@elevatecom.com>

Spring Cleaning Came Earlier Than I Wanted: Purging My Closet(s)

  • February 23, 2011 10:12 am

I haven’t had much time to do things like clean out my closets lately. And by lately I mean, um, in the five years since my daughter was born. Things have been busy! I go through her stuff as she grows out of it. But my own? No such luck.

Apologies for the oversharing, but it’s about to get even oversharier. You stand warned.

I live across the street from where I grew up. In a small apartment. So I use a closet in my parents’ place as storage space. A few weeks ago my mother and stepfather informed me that the time had come for me to give up my closet. It’s not like I didn’t know it was coming. But oh, the pain. In order to vacate the premises, I have had to go through a tremendous amount of stuff. Junk. Memories. Excellent finds. Emotional reminders. Stuffed animals. College diploma. High school yearbooks. Love letters. Old photographs. Ancient Halloween costumes. Unfathomably gorgeous yet unworn vintage gowns from a grandmother. My college computer. That kind of stuff. I’m a bit of a (very organized) pack rat. I’d be lying if I said this hasn’t been difficult. It has. Especially as I had to go through my own closets to make room for anything from my childhood closet I might want to keep. Bye-bye pre pregnancy outfits I used to wear when I went “out.” So long questionably tight jeans. Sigh.

So as I carted (okay, had family members help me cart) bag after bag after bag of clothing to my local thrift store this week, I was delighted to come across this statistic on PracticallyGreen.com:

“donating or selling one item of your used clothing can cut your carbon emissions by 27.1 pounds”

Wow. That maybe makes up for my Planet Home book tour travel? (Oh the guilt.)

Some things were a little too hard to give away. Expect to see those vintage gowns in heavy rotation the moment the mercury heats up.

What are you bad about parting with? What’s in your closet that might be better off at the consignment shop? How do you manage your stuff? Very curious how others handle this. I’m shopping less than ever so that will help going forward. But interested in tips beyond that.

Steer to Steak on RecipeClub.net

  • February 21, 2011 10:14 am

I finished the final read of the final draft of The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat at some point this week. Phew. A book is a looong process and it is always amazing to near the end of writing one. We still have a few tweaks to go–art and illustration things mainly, and the index. But now my attention is turning to what it will be like when it is published. In a few weeks, we’ll be meeting with the publicist to start that conversation.

Meanwhile, my publisher has launched a new website where they share information from their writers — RecipeClub.net. And they asked me to write a little something for the site about what it has been like for me to witness slaughters this year. If slaughter is something that makes you uncomfortable, no need to click through to the link below.

Fleisher’s–my butcher shop and the topic/co-authors/reason for The Butcher’s Guide–offers weekends where interested people can witness a slaughter and then follow the system of how that animal then becomes meat. They do a pig to pork day and they do a steer to steak day. A month or so ago, a bunch of people from the publisher came to a steer to steak event. They all had strong, positive reactions to it. And we were thrilled to have them there. One came with a camera and shot a lot of thoughtful pictures. My text about the experience and these pictures of the experience can be found here.

GoodGuide

  • February 18, 2011 9:17 pm

Thanks to the GoodGuide for this fun Q&A.

Mini excerpt below. For more, click through.

GG: What makes Planet Home a really worthwhile read? How does it differ from other green living advice books that are available?

AZ: Planet Home’s holistic approach to going green makes it unique. We’re all part of one big shared planet home—what you do at home affects me and what I do affects you. And our actions ripple out—hurting or helping the environment. Planet Home takes our interconnectedness as a point of departure and then flows into excellent green living tips for every room of the house from the bathroom to the kitchen to the attic to the nursery.

The small choices we all make on a daily basis can have tremendous impact. Tests show that in cities including Los Angeles, Denver, and Baltimore, household products such as cleaners, personal care products, paints and stains are the largest source of pollutants after cars. It’s empowering to think you can have such tremendous impact if you choose the greenest versions of these very products. The book also includes a chapter (my favorite) on understanding the bigger picture—all of the systems that are involved in any household. Sometimes going green can be a vague concept. By explaining the systems behind simple green steps, and taking away that vagueness, Planet Home helps people go greener faster.

Kids Around Canada Mentions The Complete Organic Pregnancy

  • February 15, 2011 2:25 pm

Thrilled for this delightful mention of The Complete Organic Pregnancy in a baby basics post on KidsAroundCanada.com

“I strongly recommend you get your hands on Alexandra Zissu’s The Complete Organic Pregnancy.  This book preps you for the “before, during and after” of pregnancy and guides parents-to-be through everything from the safest laundry detergent to safe household cleaners, to organic baby food recipes. I promise you won’t let this book stray far from your nightstand.”

Thanks!

Q&A: How Do You Freeze? What Do You Freeze In?

  • February 15, 2011 10:16 am

How I Freeze

It’s odd that so much of going green is figuring out how to do the most simple things. I get asked really funny questions sometimes. But I know why readers and friends are asking — I, too, had to figure out what to freeze in and how to freeze, for example, when I gave up plastic. It’s shifting your mind as well as your habits. And relearning to walk, so to speak, can be confusing.

So: I freeze in glass. Exclusively. Back in my baby food making days, I infrequently froze baby food (she tended to just eat what we were eating, mashed). I never got into the whole make baby food purees in ice cube tray experience. But for moms/friends/clients who were interested in doing that, I suggested they freeze in old school stainless steel trays, then transfer the cubes to glass jars once frozen.

I freeze in old jelly jars. Yes I know people have now realized there is some BPA in some of the seals on lids that go on glass jars. But there is only so much I can do. I have some glass containers with glass tops. I love these. I just don’t allow my food to touch the seals. You have to leave room for liquid to expand when freezing, so this room is there anyway.

Defrosting means taking the jar out the night before you want to eat something. A jar of pesto actually defrosts quite well and quickly in a bowl of water in the sink. It’s not hard once you get going. Join me.

And if you’re curious as to why you want to be freezing in something other than plastic, click here.

Glam shot of glass jars in my freezer door

The Conscious Commandments

  • February 13, 2011 10:59 pm

The Conscious Commandments From The Conscious Kitchen

Here are ten easy things you can do today to move toward having a more conscious kitchen tomorrow.

1. Eat less meat. When eating beef, seek out and choose grass-fed. Other meat and poultry should also be carefully sourced.

2. Just say no to bottled water. Drink (filtered) tap instead. This will save money, too.

3. Buy local organic or sustainably farmed fruits and vegetables. Don’t forget that coffee and tea come from plants, and wine is made from grapes; choose sustainable versions.

4. Eat only the least contaminated sustainably harvested wild or well-sourced farmed seafood.

5. Always consider packaging when shopping. Choose items packed in materials you can reuse or that can be recycled in your municipality. Buy bulk items instead of overpackaged goods. Always shop with reusable bags.

6. Cook at home. Often. And serve only on reusable dishware, not disposable. Clean with eco-friendly products.

7. Avoid plastic as often as you can.

8. Try composting, even if you live in a city or a house without a yard.

9. Whenever possible, reduce energy use in the kitchen by choosing efficient appliances, cooking methods, and dishwashing practices; don’t leave appliances plugged in when not in use; ask your electric company for alternative energy sources like wind power.

10. Spread the word. Educate everyone you know. Green your office kitchen, your kids’ school kitchen, your friends and relatives’ kitchens. Make noise; together we can make a huge difference.

Waste-Free Birthday Party

  • February 10, 2011 10:15 am

My daughter turned five recently. It’s easy to avoid plastic cups and paper plates when you’re partying at home–which is where we fêted her when she was younger–but much harder when celebrating outside the home. Her co-op nursery school requests that all of the kids be invited to all birthday parties. I love this idea in theory but it’s hard to host 15 kids plus their parents plus our other friends and family in a New York City apartment. This many people don’t fit into our place! So this year we decided to invite her classmates to a concert at a venue where her father programs music. It was so fun.

Less fun? Organizing the food. Which is a bummer; food is normally what I love the most about parties. The venue has a restaurant which is a plus when you’re trying not to toss plastic forks and knives and paper plates — we could use their plates and glasses. But the place happens to be kosher, and I wanted everything we served to be organic. I learned pretty quickly that kosher and organic is a tough call. And that if we wanted to serve our own non-kosher birthday cake (the girl’s paternal grandmother used to be a caterer and makes a fabulous 100% organic version with cream cheese frosting and blueberries to spell out ’5′), we couldn’t use their kosher plates.

decorating the cake with blueberries

After much finagling and back and forth we settled on the following:

  • they made us a kosher/organic mac-and-cheese for many, with ingredients we sourced and purchased, so we were able to use their reusable plates and silverware
  • we bought local fruit juice that, prior to this party I had no idea was kosher and were able to use their glasses instead of disposable versions or juice boxes (they were slightly hesitant to give glassware to that many little kids, but it all worked out just fine)
  • our decorations were minimal — two cloth tablecloths the venue had, one sign, and no (plastic) balloons; we decorated each table with local apples from the farmers’ market (also apparently considered kosher), and sliced them up to go with the cake
  • we brought our own cake (and beeswax birthday candles)
  • we asked friends and family to please bring their own plate and fork for cake, and explained why; we also promised to love them and feed them cake if they didn’t bring a plate or a fork, and provided some extras from home for those who didn’t

extra plates, apples, presents

At the end of the day the waste tally was:

  1. wrapping paper from presents (which we will use in collages, I promise)
  2. napkins; I had forgotten to ask the venue about napkins to tell you the truth because my daughter really wanted to use Marimekko paper napkins, sent to her from Finland by relatives on her dad’s side
  3. a few bamboo forks and “biodegradable” paper plates
  4. several juice bottles in the recycling bin

A bonus of the day was that we started the conversation about waste-free parties with 20 plus other families. And no one even made too much fun of me for asking them to BYO plates. All in all, pretty good. And the birthday girl had a blast.

Have you thrown a “waste-free” party before? How did it go over? What was easy or hard about it? I already know where I will improve next year.

reusable plates and Marimekko napkins

Takeout Interrupted

  • February 8, 2011 8:47 pm

I just had a looong work day and I’m tired. What I want is to play with my girl until someone miraculously puts food on the table. It’s cold and windy out. I want something exotic and spicy. But we don’t order takeout around here. Well…never say never, but I could count on one hand the amount of times we do it per year. The takeout is rarely local, almost never organic, comes enshrouded in unfathomable amounts of disposable waste, and it doesn’t even taste good–maybe the worst sin of all.

I know that days like these happen every week, that I often feel so busy/tired that I’m tempted not to cook. So I help myself out. If/when I turn on the oven, I always cook one (or two or three) extra things that will be the base of another meal a few days down the road. Tonight the pre-cooked item was a winter squash from the farmers’ market, which I’d roasted whole/skin-on while I made deconstructed lasagna late last week. I refer to this as “oven stuffing” in The Conscious Kitchen. Bonus: it saves energy.

I threw an onion and olive oil in the dutch oven that never manages to leave the stove top, scooped the flesh out of the squash, dumped it in the pot, and covered it with water. To satisfy my exotic craving, I rooted around the kitchen for two decidedly non-local items that we sometimes have on hand: ginger and coconut oil. I scored (but finished the coconut oil and I doubt I’ll replace it — sigh). In they went to flavor the soup. As soon as it was all hot and bubbling, I turned off the flame, and whirred it all together with an immersion blender. The girl ate hers just like that, I put some hot sauce in ours. I’m quite sure whatever takeout we might have ordered wouldn’t have tasted anywhere near as good.

Also: I helped myself out already for tomorrow. Black beans are soaking on the counter. Do you “oven stuff” and pre-prepare meals days ahead?